Mikel Arteta at Arsenal: Progress or Regress?
"Be careful what you wish for". That seemed to be the statement that most reflected Unai Emery’s short-lived reign at Arsenal. In 2018, after Arsène Wenger had been at the club for a staggering 22 years, most Arsenal fans demanded change. This was because the flooding of rampant success that Wenger had masterminded had by then, if not completely dried up, at least become a tiny puddle of the odd F.A. Cup win and a top 4 finish. There were rented planes flown across the Emirates skyline, fighting and arguments in the crowds and there were YouTube channels that became infamous for picking at the carcasses of Arsenal’s latest defeats. Finally, the Arsenal board relented, and Wenger was ushered towards the door and Emery was welcomed in.
Fast forward to November 2019 and it is Emery now being hurriedly pushed through the exit doors. It seems the Arsenal fans wanted change, just not that change. It’s fair to say that Emery was not delivering results and had his players looking bemused and uninspired out on the pitch. It just seemed like one of those situations where it was just a bad fit for both manager and club. Emery was a winner and had delivered trophies at both Sevilla and at moneybags PSG but it just didn’t seem to be working at Arsenal, and so off he went.
So, what of the newest man now at the helm then? Mikel Arteta comes into the fray already someone the Arsenal fans not only know but cherish, from his days playing and captaining The Gunners. This is his first attempt as the main man in charge, but he has been assistant manager at Manchester City working alongside perhaps the greatest living philosopher in football, Pep Guardiola. And the Man City players are quick to talk at length about what an impact Arteta has had on them.
It’s fair to say then that there is excitement for what Arteta could bring to Arsenal in the future. Here then is a quick look at what Arteta has changed at the club and how it is developing for the better or worse.
Arteta has got Arsenal on the right track and it’s especially clear after the winter break how much progress has been made tactically, and the team are beginning to play like the Arsenal of old. However, there is still a mad inconsistency to the side, one that makes the outcome of their games difficult for the bookies to predict.
If though, Arteta can work on the team and have Arsenal believing again that they are a club to be feared, then in this crazy season, where only Liverpool are dominating, The Gunners will soon be climbing the table and will have a great platform to build on going forward.
To say Arsenal’s defence has been shaky this season is something of an understatement. They were leaking goals at a rapid rate under Emery and instead of looking up at the top of the table, they found themselves looking down at the relegation places. Since Emery has come in, he has made it a priority to sure up the defence and plug that leak. He has wanted his centre-backs to do the basics better and give more cover to the keeper Bernd Leno. This is not an easy task when one of the centre-backs is the erratic David Luiz, known more for his surges forward and long-ball passes then for his robust defending. Yet it is a tactic that Arteta seems to be making work, as Arsenal are now undefeated, as of writing, in their last 10 matches and have kept five clean sheets during that run.
Oh, where would Arsenal be this season without their star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Truthfully, probably in a relegation battle. The Gabonese ice-cold finisher has scored an impressive 17 goals so far in the league. Arteta knows that if he can keep Aubameyang fit then Arsenal have a chance in most matches to score. However, Aubameyang’s prowess in front of goal has apparently caught the attention of Spanish mega-club Barcelona, who are rumored to be readying a bid for the striker this summer. Therefore, Arteta’s biggest job for the Arsenal attack could be convincing Aubameyang that his future is at The Emirates. If Arteta is able to achieve this, then the club will have one of the best goal scorers in the world to build a team around.